Theology Not Ideology


Ideology makes smart people stupid. No, it doesn’t decrease the IQ or the cleverness with which the ideologue defends a position and attacks others who dissent, but it makes people think and act as though they were stupid. Here’s what I mean.

To be an ideologue is not just to hold beliefs strongly but to hold to a belief system that dictates the way reality must be, no matter what. Facts must be made to conform to the ideologue’s beliefs, even when they don’t. So, the ideologue must dismiss facts or else distort them to maintain beliefs which are held as absolute.

In his book I’m just beginning to read, The Cross in Our Context, the Canadian theologian Douglas John Hall, introduces us to the theology he develops first in the manner called via negativa, by saying what it is not. One of the things his theology of the cross is not and must not become is an ideology. Hall writes:

By ideology I mean a theoretical statement or system of interpretation that functions for its adherents as a full and sufficient credo, a source of personal authority, and an intellectually and psychologically comforting insulation from the frightening and chaotic mish-mash of daily existence. For the ideologue, whether religious or political, it is not necessary to expose oneself constantly to the ongoingness of life; one knows in advance what one is going to find in the world. (25).

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